Video: David Barton tells Glenn Beck that the Smithsonian is lying about Jefferson’s beliefs
David Barton wants a do-over.
The imaginative pseudo-historian, whose aptly-titled book The Jefferson Lies was pulled last week after publisher Thomas Nelson “lost confidence in the book’s details,” told Glenn Beck’s “The Blaze” that he wants to revise his book, fixing some errors and adding evidence to “disprove” the claims of his critics:
Barton seemed anything but shaken by the controversy when he spoke via telephone with The Blaze. He freely answered questions about the controversy and explained that he’s prepared to respond to some of the critiques, while dismissing what he believes is an “elevated level of hostility that’s not really rational in many ways.”
While he stands by his central arguments about Jefferson, Barton isn’t pretending to be immune from error. The historian said that the book has already gone through three or four printings and that there have been word and text changes based on spelling or grammar errors along the way. Also, he addressed a willingness to amend historical items, should they be pointed out and proven wrong by other academics.
“Our policy from day one on every book we’ve done [is] that if someone shows us valid things to change, we’ll change them,” Barton said.
Well, here are a couple of “valid things” he may wish to look into. The Jefferson Lies, which a May poll by the History News Network was voted the “least credible book in history”, characterizes Jefferson – a slave-owner and deist who famously questioned the divinity of Jesus Christ – as an ultra-Christian champion of civil rights.
And WWJ[efferson]D about Barton’s continued efforts to recast him as a Christian hardliner?
Let’s take a gander at some of the man’s own words on the subject of lies and the lying liars who tell them. In an 1800 letter responding to a friend’s warning that Philadelphia clergy were attacking Jefferson for his unorthodox beliefs, Jefferson wrote,
The returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to their hopes, & they [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: & enough too in their opinion, & this is the cause of their printing lying pamphlets against me. . .
Video: Jon Stewart and David Barton talk about The Jefferson Lies
Citing “lost confidence in the book’s details,” David Barton’s publisher announced Thursday that it had decided to cease publication of his bestseller The Jefferson Lies, a revisionist pseudo-history that portrays Thomas Jefferson, who was a deist and a slave owner, as an ultra-Christian champion of civil rights.
The Thomas Nelson publishing company has decided to cease publication and distribution of David Barton’s controversial book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson, saying it has “lost confidence in the book’s details.”
Casey Francis Harrell, Thomas Nelson’s director of corporate communications, told me the publishing house “was contacted by a number of people expressing concerns about [The Jefferson Lies].” The company began to evaluate the criticisms, Harrell said, and “in the course of our review learned that there were some historical details included in the book that were not adequately supported. Because of these deficiencies we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to stop the publication and distribution.”
The Jefferson Lies no longer appears in searches on Thomas Nelson’s website.
The Jefferson Lies has taken something of a beating of late. In May, conservative Christian scholars Warren Throckmorton and Michael Coulter released Getting Jefferson Right, a book devoted broadly to debunking Barton’s false portrayals of the third president. Two months later, Barton’s masterwork was voted the “least credible book in history” in a poll conducted by the History News Network.
The final straw may have been yesterday’s “All Things Considered,” in which NPR host Barbara Bradley Hagerty tore the book to shreds (metaphorically), citing Barton’s lack of credentials, blatant errors, and utterly inaccurate portrayal of Jefferson’s beliefs and intentions. (Crooks & Liars covered NPR’s defenestration of Barton here,)
Thomas Kidd of WORLD reports that Barton was perplexed by his publisher’s decision:
Barton told me that he regards Thomas Nelson’s decision as a “strange scenario.” He added that the press has not tried to engage him about the ostensible problems in the book, and that Thomas Nelson officials simply notified him by email that they were stopping publication.
By the way, Barton’s statement about the press’ supposed failure to “engage him about ostensible problems in the book,” is (surprise surprise) yet another lie.
In May, he appeared on “The Daily Show” to debate the book with Jon Stewart. And in June, he backed out of a scheduled radio appearance with John Fea, a Christian historian who has vigorously criticized his work, citing factual inaccuracies and noting, “Barton misrepresents the past by manipulating it for his own partisan political views.”
David Barton tells Kirk Cameron about how the Founding Fathers wanted bibles in schools
Fake historian David Barton got a bit of what’s been coming to him on Wednesday, when NPR’s “All Things Considered” turned its polite, soft-spoken, but firmly fact-based attention to the evangelical demagogue beloved of Glenn Beck and former child star Kirk Cameron.
In a segment titled “The Most Influential Evangelical You’ve Never Heard Of,” Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR’s religion correspondent, introduced the “Prairie Home Companion” and “Car Talk” crowd to Barton, a self-promoting windbag who specializes in claiming that things he disagrees with are unbiblical. His special obsession is the Founding Fathers, who, he says, were devout Christians who never envisioned anything like a separation of church and state.
Hagerty blogged the segment on NPR’s website. (C&L has bolded the especially good parts for your reading ease):
“You look at Article 3, Section 1, the treason clause,” [Barton] told James Robison on Trinity Broadcast Network. “Direct quote out of the Bible. You look at Article 2, the quote on the president has to be a native born? That is Deuteronomy 17:15, verbatim. I mean, it drives the secularists nuts because the Bible's all over it! Now we as Christians don't tend to recognize that. We think it's a secular document; we've bought into their lies. It's not.”
We looked up every citation Barton said was from the Bible, but not one of them checked out. Moreover, the Constitution as written in 1787 has no mention of God or religion except to prohibit a religious test for office. The First Amendment does address religion.
[H]istorians say Barton is flat-out wrong in his facts and conclusion.
David Barton is not a historian. He has a bachelor's degree in Christian education from Oral Roberts University and runs a company called WallBuilders in Aledo, Texas. But his vision of a religion-infused America is wildly popular with churches, schools and the GOP, and that makes him a power. He was named one of Time magazine's most influential evangelicals. He was a long-time vice chairman for the Texas Republican Party. He says that he consults for the federal government and state school boards, that he testifies in court as an expert witness, that he gives a breathtaking 400 speeches a year.
You may have seen David Barton on Jon Stewart the other night, or on several other shows, plugging his new book, "The Jefferson Lies." Barton is a right-wing fundie who's rewritten history to make Thomas Jefferson a religious man who never wanted religion out of public life. (You may also know him as a "professor" at the famous Beck University.) Slacktivist's Fred Clark, famous for calling out the charlatans in his faith, has a bone to pick with how the mainstream media depicts David Barton:
And then Gilgoff refuses to answer his own question.
Instead, Gilgoff retreats into a wretched, flaccid display of false-equivalence, view-from-nowhere, opinions-on-the-shape-of-earth-differ non-journalism.
“Barton’s work has drawn many critics,” Gilgoff writes, in lieu of actual journalism.
That’s a remarkable sentence. It’s like saying, “Bernie Madoff’s investment skills have drawn many critics.” Or, “Ty Cobb’s sportsmanship has drawn many critics.” Or, “Leroy Jenkins’ teamwork has drawn many critics.”
Who is David Barton? David Barton is a man who says things that are not true.
David Barton makes stuff up. He surgically alters quotations deliberately in order to deceive others.
David Barton says things that are not true. He is not merely “controversial.” He is not merely “a lightning rod for critics.” His many, many false assertions are not merely “disputed” or “questioned” or “challenged.”
David Barton says things that are not true. After being repeatedly, publicly corrected, he repeats those very same untrue statements. This is what he does. This is how he makes his living.
David Barton has not attracted “critics.” David Barton says things that are not true, and those Gilgoff mislabels as his “critics” are simply those many, many people who have pointed out the many, many untrue things that David Barton has said. His false statements are obvious. His false statements are extravagant. His false statements are hard to miss.
David Barton says things that are not true. That is the primary, pre-eminent, pervasive fact about David Barton.
To say anything else about David Barton without also saying that is to be inaccurate, misleading and dishonest.
I don't question the necessity of pointing out Barton's history of outright falsehoods, explaining the fallacies of his presentism (as in using a 1765 sermon or a 1792 congressional vote to show that the original intent of the founders was to oppose bailout and stimulus plans), and introducing to non-experts the abundant evidence calling his historical worldview of the Christian Founders into question. Yet while these kinds of refutations are necessary, they are not sufficient. That's because Barton's project is not fundamentally an historical one.
That's why historians' takedown of his ahistorical approach ultimately won't matter that much. Nor will historians' explanations of his presentism, and his obvious and unapologetic ideological agenda (albeit considerably muted for his appearance on The Daily Show). While all the historians' refutations are good and necessary, ultimately they won't matter for the audience which exists in his alternate intellectual universe, one described in much greater detail in my colleague Randall Stephens' forthcoming book The Anointed: Evangelical Experts in a Secular Age...
After all the refutations and belittling of pedigree, Barton still appears in a New York Times "puff piece," argues with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, and fields calls from congressmen and presidential candidates. In short, if this were a basketball game between Barton and professional historians, in some ways it's already a rout, with Barton far ahead and the scrubs in to play out the garbage time.
Some of that is because of the skill of Barton and his organization WallBuilders at ideological entrepreneurialism. Barton's intent is not to produce "scholarship," but to influence public policy. He simply is playing a different game than worrying about scholarly credibility, his protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. His game is to inundate public policy makers (including local and state education boards as well as Congress) with ideas packaged as products that will move policy.
And once again, our librul media is easily outplayed.
As Americans gathered to celebrate their independence this past Fourth of July weekend, for some the festivities were tinged with sadness by the mounting evidence that many simply don't know their own nation's history. While a new study showed that only 35% of fourth-graders knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, a Marist poll found that 26% of us couldn't identify the country from which the United States announced its separation.
In the telling of Republican White House hopeful Rick Santorum, it's all liberals' fault. "This is, in my opinion, a conscious effort on the part of the left," Santorum explained, "to desensitize America to what American values are so they are more pliable to the new values that they would like to impose on America."
Which is why everything I know about the Founding Fathers I learned from the GOP.
That education begins in the period before the Founders gathered in Philadelphia to produce the document which changed the world.
The textbooks have the start of the Revolutionary War all wrong, too. The Patriot's Day civic holiday celebrated every April in Massachusetts is especially embarrassing since, as Michele Bachmann pointed out, Lexington and Concord are in New Hampshire. And those annual reenactments of Paul Revere's midnight ride have it backwards, too. As Sarah Palin repeatedly made clear, Revere was warning the British.
As it turns out, all Founders are created equal. As Palin explained to Glenn Beck, her favorite Founding Father was "all of them." That might be because, as she pointed out in 2006, they had the wisdom over 170 years in advance to support adding "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. "If it was good enough for the Founding Fathers," she declared, "it's good enough for me."
Then again, how special could Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and their ilk have been anyway? As Ronald Reagan told Americans in the 1980's, the Nicaraguan Contras were the "moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers."
Well, according to the Republican National Committee, Madison, Hamilton and the other Framers of the Constitution of the United States were perfect. According to the RNC, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan committed sacrilege when she quoted Justice Thurgood Marshall's assessment that "the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war, and momentous social transformation to attain the system of constitutional government, and its respect for the individual freedoms and human rights, we hold as fundamental today." Unable to prevent three-fifths of the Senate from voting on Kagan's nomination, Republicans instead suggested in an RNC memo that the Founders' three-fifths of a person standard for counting slaves was no defect:
"Does Kagan Still View Constitution 'As Originally Drafted And Conceived' As 'Defective'?"
Then again, for Glenn Beck, the three-fifths compromise in the Constitution was a feature, not a bug:
"That's why, in the Constitution, African-Americans were deemed three-fifths people, because the Founders wanted to end slavery and they knew if the South could count slaves as full individuals you would never get the control to be able to abolish it."
"That's right, the Founders actually put a price tag on coming to this country: $10 per person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here. Not anymore. These days we can't ask anything of immigrants -- including that they abide by our laws."
In any event, as Michele Bachmann has told us time and again, the Founding Fathers worked tirelessly to rid the United States of the "scourge" of slavery. That includes the Founding Child John Quincy Adams, who died seventeen years before Civil War - and the passage of the 13th Amendment -ended slavery in 1865:
"We know we were not perfect. We know there was slavery that was still tolerated when the nation began. We know that was an evil and it was scourge and a blot and a stain upon our history. But we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States. And I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forebears, who worked tirelessly, men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."
As for the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln praised Thomas Jefferson's Declaration for introducing "to into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression." But while Lincoln at Gettysburg turned to Jefferson to redeem the promise of America, his Republican successors inform us that it's best to ignore the Declaration's author and third President altogether.
The Texas Board of Education, which sets the de facto standards for U.S. textbook publishers, removed Thomas Jefferson from the Texas curriculum, "replacing him with religious right icon John Calvin." (There is, of course, the Tea Party exception, which allows gun-toting Tea Baggers and Republican Congressman like Texas Rep. Michael McCaul to proclaim, "Thomas Jefferson said the Tree of Liberty will be fed by the blood of tyrants and patriots. You are the modern day patriots.") That's what you get when you have the temerity to explain the plain meaning of the First Amendment, as Jefferson did in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
Beck then describes "The Plan," which he says is analogical to "lifeboats" on the Titanic: He says he's assembling a team of "experts" to help him shape a movement that will produce GlennBeckian electoral victories in 2010. (Obviously, that NY-23 experiment didn't turn out so hot.) These experts are being hired to work on policy areas such as the economy, the environment, national security, etc.
Beck: And what I've done, is I've found two really smart people in each category, two really -- oh, they just have all kinds of experience. And then I have coupled them with one rebel -- one radical. I hear that's popular to be a radical now.
But these radicals are not the radicals wearing the Che T-shirts. These radicals are the ones wearing the Jefferson T-shirts!
Beck had already displayed a propensity to traduce history in order to push his thesis that the progressive movement is the Enemy of America, which recently reached full flower in his pseudo-documentary based on Jonah Goldberg's pseudo-history portraying progressives as the font of all the great genocides of the past century.
Will Bunch reports that this fondness for fake history is about to extend to church-state separation issues -- and will tread into territory long hold by far-right extremists.
Bunch reports that Beck has released the first concrete details about Beck's "experts" for "The Plan":
It is an eight hour event. You and I on stage with three different experts. David Barton is going to be the first one and we're going to talk about the meaning of faith in America. All the lies that you have been told, that this isn't a nation of faith, that religion played no role. I'm you will be stunned when you learn and see the real history that is no longer taught.
As Bunch notes:
The real reason that history "is no longer taught" is because...it's bogus.
As Will explains:
Barton is the founder of a Texas-based group called the WallBuilders, a foundation devoted to proving that the roots of the United States and its Constitution are not based on the separation of church of state -- as is widely believed and widely taught -- but as country built upon a bedrock of Christianity. That is also the premise of a widely circulated book that Barton published in the 1990s called "The Myth of Separation" -- a book that was eventually re-written and issued under a different name because it was larded with bad information, some of which nevertheless became gospel on conservative talk radio. As noted in the 2006 Texas Monthly article (via Nexis):
In 1995 the historian Robert Alley attempted to trace the provenance of a quote that Rush Limbaugh had mistakenly attributed to James Madison, in which Madison purportedly called the Ten Commandments the foundation of American civilization. All roads led to David Barton, whose The Myth of Separation attributed the following quote to Madison: "We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God." Barton cited two sources for the quote: a 1939 book by Harold K. Lane called Liberty! Cry Liberty! and Frederick Nyneyer's 1958 book First Principles in Morality and Economics: Neighborly Love and Ricardo's Law of Association. Alley couldn't find the quote anywhere in Nyneyer's book, however, and eventually concluded that Barton had pulled it from an article in a journal with the unlikely title Progressive Calvinism, which, in turn, had attributed it to something called the "1958 calendar of Spiritual Mobilization." In any case, Alley reported, the editors of Madison's papers were unable to find anything in his writings that was even remotely similar. "In addition," they added, "the idea is inconsistent with everything we know about Madison's views on religion and government, which he expressed time and time again in public and in private."
Barton previously appeared on Fox News' show hosted by Mike Huckabee, to promote the same nonsense. And as we noted then: